Moving to Japan

Returning to Japan? Follow COVID protocols or the gov’t may make your name and employer public

On January 14th, Japan started implementing a new set of protocols for Japanese returning to Japan and foreigners re-entering Japan with a status-of-residence.

Japan has virtually suspended all new entry of foreigners to the country as of January 13th, so the pledge described below is essentially only applicable to Japanese returnees, foreigners with existing statuses-of-residence in Japan and special humanitarian cases.

Entrants are required to sign a pledge agreeing to self-quarantine for 14 days, among other COVID-19 prevention measures, which if violated could result in having their names and behavioral history made public.

The Mainichi newspaper reports that people who break the pledge may be subject to a number of penalties, including: publication of their name, nationality, and location history, as well as revocation of their status-of-residence (visa) and even deportation. Regarding making people’s names public, the government would make the decision based on a case-by-case basis.

Written Pledge

As of January 14th, people entering Japan, whether they are Japanese or not, must submit a copy of a written pledge (links to PDF of pledge in Japanese on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs site) to the airport quarantine office. Below is an overview of the main points of the pledge.

The pledge requires the person to:

  • Provide their name, nationality, passport number, country of origin, and intended length of stay in Japan.
  • Specify whether they have stayed in a county or region that is on the list of countries subject to denial of entry within 14 days of landing in Japan.
  • Provide the reason why their purpose of entry to Japan is “urgent and indispensable”
  • Agree to act in accordance with instructions from the Ministry of Health regarding interpersonal contact or behavior that may lead to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
  • Immediately report any symptoms to the nearest health center and follow the subsequent instructions of relevant authorities.

The pledge requires the sponsoring employer or organization ensure that the person entering Japan:

  • Has not stayed in a country or territory subject to denial of entry for 14 days prior to landing.
  • Has monitored their body temperature and checked for symptoms for 14 days before entering Japan. If symptoms have been observed, the person is to immediately cancel plans for travel to Japan.
  • Must be tested for the novel coronavirus and provide proof of a negative test in the prescribed format, within 72 hours before departure to Japan. Failure to provide proof in the prescribed format will result in denial of entry.
  • Must have private medical insurance or Japanese public health insurance at the time of entry.
  • Install the LINE app for recording their health condition and to use the app for 14 days after landing in Japan. Alternatively, the person may also report their health condition to the nearest health center that has jurisdiction over where they are staying.
  • Install the contact confirmation app specified by the Ministry of Health and use the app for 14 days after entering Japan.
  • When entering Japan, the person should start saving their location information and should continue saving this info for 14 days after entering the country.
  • Will be tested for COVID-19 when landing in Japan and will not have contact with other persons until the results are known. If it is unavoidable that the person has to wait for results outside the airport, the sponsoring company or organization must secure a place for the person to wait and to bear the costs.
  • Will not use public transportation for 14 days after entering Japan.
  • Will self-quarantine for 14 days after entering Japan.
  • If the person becomes symptomatic within 14 days of entering Japan, their sponsoring company or organization must report this information to the “Returnee/Contact Counseling Center” that has jurisdiction over the person’s place of accommodation, inform the “area” where the person has been staying, and have the person go to a designated medical institution.
  • If the person has a positive indication of COVID-19 within 14 days of entering Japan, the person and sponsoring employer or organization must promptly present their post-entry location information stored in their smartphones to the competent health center for investigation and epidemiological studies.
  • The sponsoring employer or organization must make sure the person thoroughly implements the following infection prevention measures:
    • Wear a mask.
    • Thoroughly disinfect hands.
    • Avoid the 3Cs (Closed spaces, crowded places, closed-contact settings)

For people who have not stayed in any countries or territories on the banned list, the pledge is basically the same as above except that the Ministry of Health only recommends (but does not require) that you install the official contact confirmation app and turn on location history on your smartphone and save the information for 14 days after entering the country.

Violating the Pledge

The pledge states that if the person signing the pledge has made false statements or used false documents in applying for entry to Japan or has violated the provisions of the pledge, they may be subject to having their status-of-residence revoked and to be deported.

Companies and sponsoring organizations associated with the person signing the pledge could also have their names made public by relevant authorities.

Separate from the verbiage in the pledge, the Mainichi newspaper reports that the government has started to implement the policy of publicly naming people, on a case-by-case basis, who violate the quarantine rules.

The policy of publicly naming people was apparently introduced in response to the actions of a Japanese man who returned from the United Kingdom in December. The man tested negative on his return but ate with about ten people shortly after, despite having supposed to be in self-quarantine. Subsequently, a mutant strain infection was confirmed in two men and women who had close contact with a man who attended the dinner. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced this case on January 10th.

Update (February 17, 2021):

If you are curious about the current state of travel restrictions in place for landing in Japan, here’s our video on what to expect regarding entering Japan as of February 5, 2021.

Sources: Mainichi newspaper, January 15, 2021, in Japanese, Ministry of Foreign affairs, Written Pledge (PDF in Japanese)

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